<<UserID:Webb>> It’s good to finally be off the Long 15. Not that Route 164 is all that different in scenery, but at least I’m heading in a different general direction.
I woke up this morning with a little stiffness, and a good amount of pain from the ghoul’s delicate attentions, but nothing unexpected, and the wounds look pretty clean so far, no signs of radiating discoloration or more than average swelling -- knock on wood. It took another shot of localized Med-X to get me up and moving, but, all things considered, I think we got off fairly light.
ED-E’s looking more chipper too. I took some time and hammered his frame back into shape, then put in a few new rivets to reinforce the damaged welds. I’d say I did a pretty fair job, right, eyeball?
<<UserID:Webb>> I’ll assume that was a “thank you”.
The trip back down the Long 15 from Primm was an uneventful and quiet trip, aside from chasing off some coyotes picking over the remains of the dead around the patrol station. By the time I hit Route 164 and turned east, the sun was high enough in the sky that it wasn’t shining directly in my eyes, but I was still glad for the sunglasses I picked up back in Goodsprings, as there’s a wicked glare coming off the sand in the dry lake.
Different direction or no, however, Route 164 has proved just about as hospitable as any other road in Nevada so far. Not long after getting onto the 164, I spotted something jutting out of a dune off the road to the south. I hesitated for a moment before leaving the road, with visions of yesterday’s ghouls lurking in my forebrain, but ED-E’s scanners came up clear, and I couldn’t see anything moving out there, so I eventually got my ass in gear and hopped off the road to check it out.
It turned out to be the husk of an old plane, of all things. I’ve seen a few crashed planes back west in the service, and I even watched a pre-war holovid once in Vault City that actually had footage of one flying, but this is the first time I’d really gotten close to one.
It was mostly rusted out, and it was smashed into several segments from when it crashed into the desert centuries ago, but it was still incredibly impressive. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to be able to step onto one of these things and soar off into the sky.
Ah well. Back in the present, the skeleton of the plane had been pretty well picked over by other prospectors. I did a bit of digging around in the dune and turned up a few broken munition crates with some salvageable ammo inside, but otherwise it was just a sightseeing tour.
I’m glad I took the time, however, because it let me easily avoid a rather obvious ambush along Route 164.
As I left the crash site, I angled northeast back towards the road and came back up the dunes just about where some ruins straddled the road -- maybe a pre-war fueling station? Some sort of trading post? The buildings were too far gone to tell.
Anyway, I spotted some movement as I crested the hill back to the road and dropped down to watch. The ruins were crawling with -- what else, with a perimeter this sloppy? -- Jackals, who had taken up positions inside the walls. They were watching for traffic headed east or west, clearly, but had given no thought to someone coming in from a direction other than the road itself, because, while their cover was decent protection from anyone on the 164, they were all in plain sight from where I was crouched. None of them were even looking my way.
It’s almost unsporting. I thought about all the Jackals I’d killed with Jess in our unit back west, and the memory left a bad taste in my mouth. I was almost ready to creep back down the dunes and just leave them to their misery, I think, but then another memory came back, of that thighbone roasting on the spit in the hills east of Primm, and I thought about all the travelers that might still head this way, so I hunkered back down and lined up the repeater’s sights on the Jackal closest to me.
The whole firefight lasted less than half a minute. When ED-E burned a hole through the last of them, I think he was still trying to figure out where the shots were coming from.
At least the greasy sons of *Expletive Deleted* had a decent cache of ammo squirreled away, even if all of their gear was in terrible shape, so it wasn’t a total loss. I even found some actual honest-to-god grenades in a locked crate that surrendered to a little tickling with a bobby pin and screw-driver. Those little beauties might come in handy.
Heh. If the idiots had actually kept them out rather than under lock and key, that whole scrap might have gone very differently.
Probably not, though. *Expletive Deleted* Jackals...
A little further down the road, I ran into more of the local color. A young man was sitting in the shade of a cactus just to the month, sobbing softly and doing an absolutely sickening job of trying to bandage a wound on his upper arm.
I approached cautiously, covering him with my revolver, but he was so intent on his arm and trying to tie off the bandage with one hand and his teeth that he didn’t even notice me until I was standing over him and cleared my throat. There was one of those bulky Colt 6520 pistols, the kind chambered for 10mm rounds, lying in the dust near him -- he must have dropped it there before beginning his attempt to embarrass four millennia’s worth of medical science -- but he was so wrung out that he didn’t even go for it.
His eyes rolled up towards me, and, when he saw the revolver in my hand, he just slumped forward with a wail that somehow reminded me of the hopeless sounds little Callie would make when she couldn’t sleep at night. He told me to go ahead and get it over with, and then made some remark about how his lucky necklace was anything but.
I stared at him, nonplussed, for just a minute, and then I holstered my revolver and crouched down next to him, kicking his pistol well out of reach just to be safe. I told him to shut up for a minute and just let me take a look at his arm, and he obliged on both counts.
He’d been shot through the meat of his bicep. It was still bleeding at a good clip, and I’m sure it hurt like hell, but it has missed the bone and major arteries and the bullet had passed clean through. I told him as much, then followed up with the fact that I was a doctor, and I told him I could get him patched up good as new if he could hold still for me.
He nodded, then bit down on his knuckles as I poured some more of my dwindling supply of whiskey over and through the wound. I dug around in my bags and came up with what I wanted -- two female sanitary napkins, scavenged out of a dispenser in the restroom in that patrol station on the Long 15. I put one at each end of the wound, and told the boy -- who eventually told me he was named Tomas -- to put pressure on the one he could reach while I shook out the tangle of cloth he’d been using as a bandage and tied it neatly and tightly around the pads and his arm.
He was still wincing from the pain, so I told him I’d trade him a shot of Med-X for some of his ammo. He agreed, and counted me out two dozen 10mm rounds from his vest pockets, after which I gave him the injection in his arm.
As he began to collect himself, I asked him what had happened. His story was rambling but seemed genuine, perhaps more so because of how obviously confused he was about the whole incident. Apparently, he had met a girl a few days ago, and the two of them had been traveling together when suddenly she turned a gun on him and demanded that he turn over his caps.
It’s not an unfamiliar story, I suppose, predators like that tying on with someone for protection for a few days and then robbing them once their usefulness runs out or they find better prospects. What WAS odd, however, was that she didn’t want his spending caps -- she wanted the ones he wore around his neck on a string, his so-called “lucky necklace”. When he balked at this, she’d opened fire, hitting him in his arm, and he claimed only blind luck had enabled him to pull his pistol and shoot her before she could finish him off.
At this point, he pulled the necklace off in disgust and tossed it to me, saying he didn’t even want the thing any more -- I could keep it, if I wanted, for helping him out.
I looked at the necklace curiously and blinked when I saw that the caps on it were more of those Sunset Sarsaparilla caps with the blue stars on them. That crazy old man Holmes had been right -- people apparently WERE willing to kill for the stupid things!
I slipped them off the string and stuffed them into a side pocket of my satchel, then told Tomas to stay sitting where he was for a while longer until his head stopped spinning before getting up to move on. He agreed weakly, thanked me again, and settled back into the shade as best he could, his eyes closing.
I shook my head, staring at him. Poor kid. He’s not going to make it if he stays out here in the Mojave unless he stops being so damn trusting. I went and got his pistol, pulled the clip out of it, and then put both the pistol and the clip nearby so he’d see them when he woke, then got moving again.
About fifty yards down the road, I spotted the body of the girl laying crookedly among some rocks beside the road, a pistol still clutched in her hand and the left side of her face drooping inward from a gunshot wound. The pistol was a 6520, just like the kid’s. I was happy enough with my revolver, but the Colt looked to be in pretty good shape, so I stashed it in my pack to sell or trade and went through her pockets. In addition to the ammo I was expecting and a scattering of normal caps, I found two more star caps in a separated buttoned pocket on her vest. I guess Tomas was telling the truth after all.
I’m back on the 164 again now, still heading east, and I can see what has to be Nipton coming up ahead of me. No sign of life that I can see from here, but there sure is an awful lot of smoke. Could be tanning fires if its a trading town, sure, but... after reading that journal and listening to what that ranger said, I don’t have a good feeling about this.
Wait a minute... something’s moving. It’s a man, coming this way. ED-E, get ready.
<UserID:Webb>> What the hell? He’s waving his arms in the air and whooping like a crazy person. Doesn’t look armed, though. What the--
<<Unidentified Male>> YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Who won the lottery? I DID!
<<UserID:Webb>> Stop right there! Don’t come any cl--